WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump got a firsthand look Saturday at the damage from Hurricane Laura on a post-Republican National Convention trip that allowed him to use the trappings of his office to try to project empathy and leadership.
His stops, first in Louisiana and later in Texas, came two days after the Category 4 storm slammed the Gulf Coast, leaving at least 16 dead and wreaking havoc with severe winds and flooding. While the storm surge has receded and the cleanup effort has begun, hundreds of thousands remain without power or water, and they could for weeks or months as the hot summer stretches on.
“I'm here to support the great people of Louisiana. It’s been a great state for me,” he said in Lake Charles. “It was a tremendously powerful storm.” He said he knows one thing about the state: “They rebuild it fast.”
During the slightly more than two hours he spent in the city, Trump met with officials and relief workers but not with any of the residents whose homes had been ripped apart in the storm.
He did, however, get a good look at the extensive damage and the debris strewn across the city of 80,000 people, beginning with the bird's eye view from Air Force One as it came in for landing.
His first stop was a warehouse being used as a staging area for the Cajun Navy, a group of Louisiana volunteers who help with search and rescue after hurricanes and floods. “Good job,” Trump told them.
Trump then toured a neighborhood with Gov. John Bel Edwards and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, making his way down a street blocked by felled trees and where houses were battered by the storm, one with its entire roof torn off.
Edwards has said Laura was the most powerful hurricane ever to strike his state, surpassing even Hurricane Katrina, which was a Category 3 when it hit almost exactly 15 years ago.